The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

5 ways doctors are hurting patient satisfaction — and don’t know it

See what behaviors cause poor patient satisfaction and how you can change for the better.

image of patient pointing to tablet screen next to doctor

At a Glance

  • Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems, that are up to date and user-friendly, can improve patient experiences and streamline care processes
  • Studies show that a majority of patients prefer online scheduling to making appointments over the phone
  • Sending automated reminders, requesting feedback, and promptly addressing online reviews can create a positive patient experience

Patient retention is a key component of a thriving medical practice, but many healthcare providers inadvertently turn patients away. Today, people seek more than just an accurate diagnosis — they expect a positive experience at every stage of the care process. If patients aren’t satisfied with their visit, there’s a strong chance they won’t return. 

To create and maintain a healthy practice, providers must understand what causes poor patient satisfaction. Here are 5 ways doctors unintentionally sabotage their own practices.

Visible frustration with technology

Electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) systems are designed to help doctors provide better care while streamlining the patient experience. However, all software platforms are not created equal.

EHRs and other forms of technology are only effective when properly implemented. Doctors must ensure their EHR technology is up to date, choose user-friendly systems, and also take the time to ensure the office develops proficiency with them. Outdated technology results in an inability to interface with other systems, leading to patient dissatisfaction and frustration.

No online scheduling

These days, just about everything can be completed online. Consequently, patients don’t appreciate having to pick up the phone to make an appointment.

Over half — 67% — of patients would prefer to schedule an appointment online than by phone, and 80% prefer physicians who offer an online booking option. Online scheduling also boosts business, as 26% of patients with access to this feature choose same-day or next-day appointments, effectively filling time slots that would otherwise remain empty.

More than 66% of US healthcare providers currently offer online scheduling. Doctors who fail to provide this convenience risk realizing lower patient satisfaction.

Inconsistent communication around appointments

The time a patient spends with a doctor is only part of their overall care journey. Clear and timely communication before, during, and after the appointment are part of creating a positive experience that leaves patients feeling connected, empowered, and like a priority.

To reduce no-shows and last-minute cancellations, send automated confirmations and reminders prior to the appointment. To encourage patients to share their positive experiences with your practice, and to create the opportunity to respond immediately to any negative feedback they might share with you, automatically request feedback afterward. 

Requesting feedback presents a valuable opportunity to learn what you’re doing well and what needs improvement. After all, the only way to know what patients want is to ask.

Patients don’t feel heard

Giving patients a platform to discuss the pros and cons of their experience with you can boost loyalty, but only if it produces actionable results. When the practice doesn’t acknowledge online reviews or use feedback to make positive changes, people feel ignored — and you lose out on patients. A review of a bad experience can matter not only to the patient involved but also to prospective patients who come across that review when they research your practice. Yet about 64% of patients would return to a practice if a provider responded promptly to a negative review, according to Tebra’s 2023 Patient perspectives survey. By responding to positive and negative reviews, you manage your reputation and show current and future patients that their experiences matter to you.

64% of patients would return to a practice if a provider responded promptly to a negative review. ”

Patients’ time is valuable. Opting to share their thoughts and opinions with a healthcare practice is a voluntary move made to help the doctor better serve them. Ignoring their critiques is a sign of disrespect that can have a negative impact on patient retention.

Poor bedside manner

People expect an accurate diagnosis and effective care plan from their doctor. However, it takes more than that to achieve a high level of patient satisfaction.

A provider who behaves in a gruff or condescending manner makes people uncomfortable. Whether patients are receiving preventative care or being treated for a serious health condition, they deserve compassion and respect from their doctor.

It is important to take patients’ lived experiences seriously, trust what they are saying about their experiences in their bodies, respect their personal agency, and collaborate with them on care. Providers who respond to patients with condescension, dismissal, or lack of transparency will find their patients won’t be eager to return. Good bedside manner starts during the appointment and ends with a post-visit follow-up.

Patient satisfaction requires checking the practice’s health

Many doctors don’t take the time to assess the health of their own practice. Looking inward can help providers learn better ways to serve their patient base. Retention rates are a clear indicator of patient satisfaction. 

Doctors who lack a high volume of repeat patients need to realize they might be the problem and seek ways to change for the better.

You Might Also Be Interested In

How to get patients to keep coming back. Learn what influences patient choices and behaviors in the 2023 Patient Perspectives report.

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Written by

Karmin Gentili

Karmin Gentili has several years of freelance writing and editor experience. After over 25 years in corporate management roles, she has further elevated her skills by receiving multiple certifications, including copywriting and SEO specializations. Her love of writing motivates her to use those skills to develop content so others can work toward achieving their goals.

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